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The Edmonton Oilers, you have to figure, are simply allergic to first place.
Is there a vaccine for that?
It was there for the Oilers going into that three-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs after winning 11 of 13. Loss. Loss. Loss.
The Oilers then went 7-2 to give themselves another shot at it, again against Toronto. Again they failed to seize the moment.
Tuesday in Montreal after an overtime win in the second game of the final pair of the regular season against the Leafs, it was there for them again.
Montreal 4 Edmonton 0.
Win against a team that was forced to stay away from the rink for nine days with only one practice and a morning skate to follow, and Edmonton would have moved into a tie for first with Toronto with 47 points, one ahead of the Winnipeg Jets.
That idea lasted exactly 18 seconds.
Mikko Koskinen, as happens so often, gave up a goal on his first shot. And the Montreal Canadiens grabbed the game by the throat before Connor McDavid even stepped on the ice to take what turned out to be just over five minutes of ice time in the first period.
Having a goal called back on an offside challenge by Jussi Puljuvarvi, McDavid point streak dating back to the three-game series against Toronto stopped.
Outshot 7-0 before Carey Price faced his first shot at the other end, the Oilers were out-everythinged to start and took a 3-0 lead to the intermission.
If it weren’t for goalposts it would have been 6-0. So don’t hang this one on Koskinen.
In a lot of ways this didn’t figure.
The positive tests for COVID-19 left the Canadiens in what you’d figure was a totally unfair situation returning to actions and going forward.
Indeed, you’d figure the Oilers would have returned to Montreal with a revised plan for the final 20 games of the regular season.
Finish first. Take advantage of an out-of-gas Montreal gang being forced to play 25 games in 43 days in the playoffs against the fourth place Canadiens.
Advance to the Canadian division Final of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Yes, it was the Oilers third game in four days after a week between games sitting in Montreal. But to totally no-show in yet another opportunity to move into first place. There’s no excuse.
Now they’ve followed up a 3-5-1 record against Toronto with what is now a 1-3 record against Montreal.
It set up to keep head coach Dave Tippett’s remarkable record of winning second games in back-to-back scenarios going.
The Oilers came into the game 12-2 in the second game of back-to-back games and 5-1 this season.
The Oilers went into the game 8-1-1 in Montreal in the tenure of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who ended up on a return to the line that was the story of Leon Draisaitl’s Hart Trophy season when Kailer Yamamoto came up from the minors on New Year’s Eve.
Edmonton moved on from their unexpected Spring Break in Montreal last week to play two games in Toronto as originally scheduled, emerging with three of four points including their first loser point of the season. Win this one and it would have been five of six.
Certainly Tippett was optimistic going into this one.
“I like the way our guys prepare,” he said of second games of back-to-backs.
“You get into a rhythm. We have a few things we do just a little bit different as far as preparation in back-to-backs not to overload guys. We go out with a simple game plan and we’ve been able to get some wins off it,” he said.
Nugent-Hopkins also came to the game expecting the Oilers to do what they usually do.
“We’ve always had some good games here. It’s always a fun place to play.
Tons of history.
“Practicing there all last week was still a cool experience. After this many years in the league I’m still able to enjoy it and take it all in.”
The Oilers head home for another back-to-back Friday against the Calgary Flames and Saturday versus the Vancouver Canucks, two teams with playoff hopes now almost entirely dependent on Montreal going totally in the toilet being forced to play their final 25 games of the season in a stretch of 43 days.
Six of those games are against the Oilers including one back in Montreal next week, two at home and the other two rescheduled games tagged on the end of the schedule back in Montreal May 10th and 11th.
The Flames and Canucks, both with 16-8-3 records, were “only” two points back of the Canadiens but Montreal has five games in hand.
If there was one thing to take away from this game it had to be that Montreal has no intention of giving Vancouver and Calgary any life.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021